Do’s and Don’ts for a Human and Humane Holiday Experience

by Joseph Michelli

Over twenty-five years ago I used to speak about managing the stress of the holidays. Those speeches were loosely based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season. In it the authors, Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli, essentially focused on four main themes:

  • Prioritize gift-giving to those who truly need your gifts.
  • Engage in activities (across a well-paced holiday season – not just a day) that connect with your deepest personal values.
  • Seek to be a peacemaker among friends and family.
  • Commit to spiritual growth.

Over time, I’ve come to believe we don’t need to, and quite frankly can’t “Unplug the Christmas Machine” – that machine will run even if you or I were to find a way to unplug it.

I suspect our efforts would be better spent focusing on how to create humanity-rich experiences this time of year. To that end, I offer some thoughts which I’ll lovingly call “do’s and don’ts” for the season. These thoughts are targeted in the context of both business and personal life, as they relate to each of these relationships:


Team Members

Family and Friends

Customer Do’s and Don’ts:

Do: Smile. During the holiday crunch a smile and genuine graciousness can stand out and comfort customers.

Don’t: Confuse this Customer With the Last One. When the pace picks up, it’s easy to get into a groove where people blur into “transactions.” You may be doing your 50th identical transaction of the day, but that transaction involves a person and for that person, this is likely their only interaction with you today. Honor people – their visits and their business.


Continue reading Do’s and Don’ts for a Human and Humane Holiday Experience

Moving Mountains

by Joe Calloway

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

I love the words that Steve Jobs chose: “get your thinking clean to make it simple.” That’s no easy task. It’s much easier to have our thinking cluttered by a thousand questions and complications. It’s hard work to get focused and to simplify things. But, as Jobs said, it’s worth it, because when you make things simple, “you can move mountains.”


Steve Jobs is a good role model for the power of simplicity and focus.

In a business that most would say is, by its very nature, incredibly complicated, Steve Jobs was able to make Apple a dominant force in the marketplace. Bill Gates once said that Jobs’s ability to “focus on a few things that count” was amazing. Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple, has said that Jobs could “cut out the noise” like no one he had ever seen. Jobs had the essential leadership skill of keeping everyone focused on what was most important.”

“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”
– Pete Seeger

Olympic Service with Abundance

by Chip Bell

olympic torch

The owner answered the phone. “Are you still open?” I asked him incredulously. “Oh no, we close at 6pm. But, I call forward the store phone to my cell in case of a customer
emergency.” I explained my attempt to repair my aging pipe and the part I needed. “Why don’t you meet me at the store,” he said. “I can be there in five minutes.” You know the rest of this story. I still smile when I drive by his store and recall his abundant service.

Abundance is a self-less gesture that changes the calculus of service from miserly subtraction to Midas-like addition. It signals to customers their preeminent importance. It telegraphs a true customer-centric operation. And, it elevates customer loyalty into the stratosphere. Such service is often the subject of stories we share for years, not just through next week.

The sports world was uplifted in the 2016 Rio Olympics 5000 meter heat when Abbey D’Agostino of the USA fell, causing her to trip up Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand, a fellow runner she did not know. D’Agostino could have regained her composure and continued toward the finish line. Instead she worked to help Hamblin to her feet. But, D’Agostino’s injured legs buckled in the attempt and Hamblin returned the favor, helping D’Agosion. Neither runner resumed the race until both could successfully run. Because neither was at fault for the fall, both were allowed to race in the finals. “It is a moment,” said Hamblin, “I will never, ever forget for the rest of my life.” The cheering fans that watched the abundant gesture are not likely to forget it either.

Give to your customers the very best that you have; their best will come back to you. The ROI will not just be in the form of retention, revenue and recognition; it will be a customer that works very hard to take care of your brand. A friend raves about her favorite restaurant. She admits she tides up the lavatory after using their bathroom so the next patron will be impressed. How can you serve with such abundance that your customers work as hard for you as you work for you?

This Old “Truth” Is A Lie

by Joe Calloway

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

That quote has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Henry Ford to Albert Einstein.  Whoever said it was wrong.  Or at least they’d be wrong today.  Today, that old “truth” is a lie.

Here’s what’s true: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll begin to get less and less than you’ve always gotten.

If you do what you’ve always done, you will begin to fail, because:

  • Your competition’s getting better (if you don’t believe that, you’re delusional)
  • You’re ignoring trends
  • Your customers are changing
  • Expectations are rising
  • Your industry/profession/business is being redefined and reinvented whether you like it or not

If you’ve getting better at something and still not succeeding, it means that either:

  • Your competition is getting better faster than you are or,
  • The market doesn’t value what you’re doing in the first place. (Then it’s a hobby, not a business.)

The one sure formula for business success is constant, relentless improvement at something that the market values.

What did you do today that made you better than you were yesterday?

If your answer is nothing, then your business just failed.

Happy. Easy

by Joe Calloway

The Power of Happy.  happy-and-easy

“I don’t care if my employees are happy” = “I don’t know much about business.” A Harvard Business Review analysis showed happy workers were 31% more productive, had 37% higher sales, and were three times more creative.

The Power of Easy.

If you make it easy, then you make customers happy, and you’ll make a lot of money.

  • Uber: easier to catch a ride.
  • McDonald’s: easier to get breakfast whenever you want it.
  • Warby Parker: easier to buy eyeglasses.
  • Southwest Airlines: easier to change flights.
  • Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage: easier to finance.
  • easier to book a band for your fraternity.
  • Gilson Boards: easier to buy a customized snowboard.
  • Blue Apron: easier to cook great meals.
  • Spotify: easier to listen to music.
  • Uline: easier to buy office supplies.
  • easier to promote your business.

What do you make easy for your customers?

Joe Calloway makes his clients happy, by helping them make things easy.

Service with a Magic Touch

By Chip Bell

The Platters were a favorite singing group of mine. They had forty songs that made the Top 100; four that were #1 hits. One of their top songs opens with the lyrics: “You’ve got the magic touch; it makes me glow so much. It casts a spell, it rings a bell, the magic touch.” Now, assume your customers were singing a song about their experience when dealing with you and your organization. What would it take for them to use similar lyrics in describing that experience.

The magic touch that makes customers glow is one that is more than a whimsical tease or a momentary cosmetic delight. It is enduring and memorable. It causes customers to remember their experience long after they have forgotten the outcome or product they came to you for.

My business partner and I walked into a Starbucks in LA we had frequented a few times while working with a client. It had been a year since we crossed their threshold. The barista put her hands on her hips and said, “Where have you boys been? We have missed you.” And, then proceeded to make our drinks just like we had ordered them a year earlier. Now, here is the enduring part. That was six years ago and I am still telling that story—and I would drive an hour out of my way to get a tall skinny cinnamon dolce from that Starbucks.

Make your experiences as deep, personal and enduring, as they are fun and energetic. Look for ways to customize. Make it uplifting and filled with passion. Find approaches that light up your customers’ spirit and make their day special. When you cast a spell and ring a bell, you make your customers glow and your bottom line grow. Reach out to your customers with your magic touch.

Keep It Simple.

by Joe Calloway

To the extent that you make things simple for your customers, you create value. You also create a distinct competitive advantage shared by virtually all market leaders.

keep it simple

Chances are very good that you’re making things way more complicated than they need to be, for yourself, your team, and your customers. Look around.  The best companies and the top individual performers make things simple.

Siegal+Gale publishes an annual Global Brand Simplicity Index, that has consumers around the world rank companies according to their perceived simplicity or complexity. Look at the companies that ranked highest at making things simple for customers:

  • Google
  • Netflix
  • Publix
  • Amazon
  • Chipotle (Survey taken before their recent quality/safety issues. Will be interesting to see what happens with that.)

You get the point. And when it comes to successful new companies that are disrupters, they all achieve success through creating simplicity: Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Spotify, etc. They make life simpler. They make things easier to do and buy.

As the Executive In Residence with Belmont University’s Center For Entrepreneurship, I work with students who are entering the marketplace with sometimes wildly disruptive ventures. One of my favorites is a company that has taken the complicated, cumbersome, and often uncomfortable process of booking a band for a college party or event, and boiled it down to using a simple website and a credit card. Amazing. Even better, it’s amazingly simple.

What gave MacDonald’s trouble in the marketplace recently? A menu that had too much and was too complicated. What makes Wingstop a perennial market leader and growth machine for 21 years? The menu is simple and they rarely change it.

What’s your simplicity rating? Do you make things more complicated than they need to be? How easy are you to do business with? Does everyone in your organization have a simple and accurate understanding of what matters most?

Steve Jobs said, “If you can make things simple, you can move mountains.”

Keep it simple. It’s not easy, but it pays off.

Enjoy a New Book by Joseph Michelli

What makes the customer experience in some companies stand out from all the rest?  You should read Joseph Michelli’s newest book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.

D2D final book cover 82515His newest book was released Tuesday, December 8, and is the latest in his series of business books about quality customer experience companies, following his books about The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Starbucks, Zappos, UCLA Health System, and the Pike Place Fish Market.  Driven to Delight chronicles the Mercedes-Benz USA journey to elevate the company’s customer experience to be on par with the excellence of its vehicles.

Through his business, The Michelli Experience, Dr. Michelli has spent his career helping front-line employees, managers, and senior leaders deliver relevant and engaging service experiences.  His presentations and consulting focus on corporate culture, balance, customer service, and success with his own humorous touch.  Dr. Michelli presents on Driven to Delight, but also offers a range of programs on service excellence and customer experience.

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., is an internationally sought-after speaker, author, and organizational consultant who transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices in ways that develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on the total customer experience.  If you would like read more about Dr. Michelli, please view his biography at: Joseph Michelli 

If you would be interested in booking Dr. Michelli for your next event, please contact us at: Capitol City Speakers Bureau

The Leader as Santa

by Chip Bell

Santa silhouetteFull disclosure with a hat tip to Clement Moore, the author of the famous 1823 poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” This is not intended to advocate obesity (“chubby and plump”) or smoking (“stump of a pipe”).  But, the holiday season and his poem provide a metaphor through which to examine the role of the leader.

The obvious connection to Santa is the message of generosity—always an important dimension of great leadership.  The holiday day season underscores the significance of compassion, peace and good will–all necessary cultural ingredients for a growing organization; especially one that recognizes competitive advantage comes from innovation.  But the poem provides us more than the typical festive messages; Santa, like great leaders, is also fun-loving, passionate, and humble.

Leadership is undergoing a metamorphous in our democratic culture.  As we shift from a brawn-based, manufacturing economy to a brain-based, service economy; and, as the values of Gen Xers and Millennials replace the influence held by baby boomers, there is an opportunity to rethink effective leadership.  The new leadership models are not determined by the age of the leader but by the attitude and values she or he brings to the role.

For our exploration through the Santa Claus lens, I have chosen two renowned leaders as examples:  Herb Kelleher, the founder and long time CEO of Southwest Airlines and Cheryl Batchelder, the CEO of Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen.  Each brings a unique expression of the tenets of effective modern day leadership.

Continue reading The Leader as Santa

Lipstick On A Pig (A rant by Joe Calloway)

by Joe Calloway

Lipstick on a pig – Exhibit A: A hotel in Washington, DC told me my roomlipstick-on-a-pig.jpg service order would be delivered in 30 minutes or less.  Over an hour and a half later, after making four calls to room service and being lied to four times, they finally sent my order along with a cart that had wine, cheese, fruit, desserts, etc. – as an apology.  I sent it all back – untouched.  I called the room service manager and we had a conversation about doing the job, training the people, and telling the truth.  Giving me a cart of goodies is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Lipstick on a pig – Exhibit B: My car dealer took four tries to fix my car.  Four.  In the meantime they were nice as pie, apologetic, provided me with a free loaner car – they did everything right, except fix the car.  Not doing your job well but being nice about it is lipstick on a pig.

Lipstick on a pig – Exhibit C: Flight to New York delayed because the flight crew was late to the airport.  The WiFi we were promised didn’t work.  One restroom was out of order.  But two weeks later I got a nice letter of apology from the CEO of the airline.  Yep….lipstick.  On a pig.

Nothing takes the place of consistent, excellent performance.  Nothing.  Apologies and treats are easy.  Being really good at what you do consistently takes hard work.

Don’t put lipstick on a pig.

Do the hard work necessary to create value, consistently deliver quality, and achieve excellence in performance.